About Schools North East

Set up by schools for schools, we are the first and only school-led regional network in the UK.

In 2007, a group of Head Teachers came together to establish Schools North East. Their aim was to create a unique culture of collaboration and mutual support amongst North East schools to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of our region’s young people. Twelve years on, Schools North East is stronger than ever.

Over the years, we have worked to facilitate new projects and additional support, connect schools to each other and external organisations such as business, provide a strategic voice for our members and promote a wider understanding of the issues facing education in the North East.

Schools North East is governed by our 11 Trustees, 3 co-opted Trustees and 26 strong advisory board of local Head Teachers, elected by their peers in each area, who provide Schools North East with direction and support. We also have a core team of 10 based in Newcastle.

With a well-established annual calendar of events, a Weekly Update with a distribution of over 3,000 readers and over 3,000 Twitter Followers, Schools North East’s influence is growing both locally and nationally!

Mission and Vision

Schools North East is an inclusive network led by Head Teachers creating unique culture of collaboration and mutual support and bringing the expertise of our members to benefit developments within our region.

Our Vision

Our young people are confident, enterprising, skilled and aspiring; learning and developing within well-resourced, nurturing and purposeful school environments.

Our school leaders, governors and staff demonstrate exceptional professionalism enjoying the resounding confidence of students, parents, communities, employers and decision-makers.

Our Head Teachers have a powerful voice regionally and nationally. By working collaboratively and creatively with their peers and external partners, they develop expertise, shape policy and drive change. We are recognised as a centre for innovation and the bench-mark of excellence.

Our region is vibrant, self reliant and outward looking, featuring a dynamic economy, healthy environment and distinctive culture.


Our Trustees 

Our Board

Advisory Board Members

Sunderland John HallworthSecondaryConsilium Academies
SunderlandClaire SmithPrimaryHill View Infant School
SunderlandColin LofthousePrimaryRickleton Primary School
Stockton-on-TeesJulia ArmstrongPrimaryHartburn Primary School
South TynesideGemma JeynesPrimaryValley View Primary School
South TynesideLiz HayesSecondaryBoldon School
Redcar and ClevelandGrant HopkinsPrimaryLockwood Primary School
Redcar and ClevelandLinda HalbertSecondaryFreebrough Academy
Redcar and ClevelandCarl FaulknerPrimaryNormanby Primary
Redcar & ClevelandPeter Eyre PrimarySaltburn Learning Campus
NorthumberlandCaroline PryerMiddle SchoolsPonteland Middle School
NorthumberlandAndrew HudsonPrimaryMickley First School
North TynesideIan WilkinsonSecondaryGeorge Stephenson High School
Newcastle upon TyneSarah Holmes-CarneSecondaryKenton School
MiddlesbroughLisa BigginPrimary Ayresome Primary School
MiddlesbroughPhil LathamSecondaryMacmillan Academy
HartlepoolJohn HardyPrimarySt John Vianney RC Primary School
HartlepoolMark TillingSecondaryHigh Tunstall College of Science
GatesheadMatt YoungerPrimaryColegate Community Primary School
GatesheadSteve HaighSecondaryWhickham School
DurhamKieran McLoughlinIndependent schoolsDurham School
DurhamAnnette SowdenPrimarySt Mary's RC Primary School
DurhamDavid PriestleySecondaryGreenfield Community College


Our Team

Mike Parker


Mike Parker is Director of Schools North East, the UK’s first and only regional schools network encompassing 1,150 schools.
A former national journalist and Business Editor, Mike is an external affairs specialist who has devoted much of his working career to campaigning for positive change across education, business, housing and social care sectors.

Mike has extensive experience of working in and for networks, supporting organisations to engage, share best practice and providing a representative voice.

In addition to leading the Schools North East charity, Mike is also on the Department for Education ISSP Forum; the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Governance and Leadership; the National Careers Service Partnership Advisory Group; the Education Endowment Foundation Advisory Board on £10m NE Primary Literacy Campaign; and, a school governor.

Chris Zarraga

Director of Operations & Development

Prior to joining Schools North East, Chris worked with over 165 schools in the North East and various education organisations including local authorities, Excellence Partnerships, 14-19 Groups, the Specialist Schools & Academies Trust, and School Improvement Officers. He led a large scale culture change project in education across the North East and was the development consultant for the LEGI funded Wansbeck Enterprise Education Network. Chris has 12 years of strategic and business development, consultancy and client-management experience at a ‘Big Four' accountancy firm and various financial institutions and an MBA from Durham University Business School.

Erin Doughty

Finance Assistant

Erin joined Schools North East in September 2016 as Accounts Apprentice. She has successfully completed the AAT Level 2 and 3 Certificate in Accounting . Erin is now Finance Assistant and also provides support to the whole Schools North East Team. 

Sam Murray

Events Manager

Sam joined Schools North East in March 2017 as Events Co-ordinator and in October 2017 she was promoted to Events Manager. Sam has an extensive background in events; before joining Schools North East she worked as a Leisure Centre Supervisor providing a wide range of in-house events. Previous to this, she was an Assistant Entertainments Manager for Bourne Leisure. Sam is very passionate about providing a better future for children and young people, which is what drew her to Schools North East. 

Pauline Aitchison

Business Manager

Pauline joined Schools North East in July 2017 as Business Manager and has almost 20 years’ of education experience through working in Northumberland Schools.  She was previously a School Business Manager and also comes with Governance experience having served as both a Governor and Associate Governor in Northumberland.    She understands the challenges faced by schools and is committed to making a difference to the learning chances of pupils in the region, which is what drew her to Schools North East.

Sarah Baker

Business Admin Assistant

Sarah joined Schools North East in January 2018 as a Business Admin Apprentice.  Having successfully completed the course she is now Admin Assistant and is often first point of contact when telephoning the office. 

Ellen Orange

Marketing and Communications Officer

Ellen joined Schools North East in 2019 as Marketing and Communications Officer. Before joining Schools North East she was Digital Marketing Officer at Newcastle Sixth Form College and before that worked as a Marketing Assistant for Eliesha Training. She has also worked on freelance projects with young people in the Arts and Culture sector and has a BA and MA in English Literature from Durham University.

Laura Blair

Executive Assistant

An accredited Practitioner and Fellow of the Executive & Personal Assistants Association, Laura joined Schools North East in June 2019 as Executive Assistant.  With a background in education, local authority, health and the third sector, Laura has a parent’s perspective of education and wants to help make a difference utilising the skills and experience she has accumulated over 15 years working in business support.

Ben Hardy

Relationship Manager

Before joining the team at Schools North East in July 2019 as Relationship Manager, Ben spent 5 years supporting schools, Multi-Academy Trusts and Local Authorities across the country for The Key. He also has experience as a school governor at a small special school, chairing the leadership and management committee that oversaw a location move, recruitment of a new headteacher, restructure of the governing body and an Ofsted inspection.

Ben is passionate about schools and ensuring that every young person has the best possible opportunities and is looking forward to meeting you all.

Rose Davison-Hayton

Events Co-ordinator

Rose joined Schools North East in September 2018 as Events Coordinator. Before joining the team at Schools North East, Rose worked for many years within the Hospitality Industry in some of the regions biggest hotels looking after many vip guests and functions so brings a wealth of events knowledge and experience with her.

Alice Cardy

Project Manager

Alice is on secondment from the Civil Service Fast Stream, and will be with the team until the end of September 2019. While she is with the team, Alice is responsible for developing and implementing Schools North East’s Ednorth programme. Before her secondment to Schools North East, Alice had previously been posted in the Department for Exiting the European Union where she worked as a policy advisor on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and HM Revenue & Customs on VAT policy. During her time with Schools North East, Alice is hoping to gain valuable insights into the relationship between the Civil Service and its external stakeholders.

School Business Manager Council

Our School Business Manager Council was founded in 2013 to build upon the existing local SBM networks, and provide a platform in every type and phase of school in the region. 

The Council aims to: 

Enable colleagues from across the region to meet and share intelligence and Best Practice with each other and their local networks;

Develop a powerful voice for the North East’s SBMs and raise their profile with Head Teachers to ensure they fully understand the contribution that SBMs make to North East schools;

Provide local and regional support, bespoke to each local area/ network.

The Council is comprised of School Business Managers from across the different sub-areas of the North East. The complete list of council members HERE